Saint Valentine’s Day; A Brief History

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There is something about you, Valentine,

that I cannot put my finger on

Of the year, yours is the most important date

When those who are in love sing their songs

And confess how much they love their mate

The history behind St. Valentine is as mysterious as love itself, and we only have fragments of its existence thanks to Christian and ancient Roman tradition. There is also something about February and the fact that it has, for the longest time, a strong link with romance. The Catholic Church has recognized at least three different saints with this name, men who coincidently died in the name of love. 

First, some people say Valentine was a priest, somewhere in the third century in Rome. Claudius II, the emperor at the time, had this strange idea that if he wanted to have a strong army, his men must remain single because he thought that having a family was too much of a distraction. Who knows, maybe Claudius II wanted all the single ladies for himself. Realizing how unfair Claudius II was, the priest decided to keep marrying young soldiers in secret. Unsurprisingly, when the emperor found out, he put Valentine to death. Second, some people say the real Valentine was a bishop, Saint Valentine of Terni. And just like any other murderous commander in chief, Claudius II also decided to put this bishop to death. The third, and perhaps the most mysterious of all, is the tale of an imprisoned man named Valentine, who helped Christians escape Roman prisons. Legend has it he sent the first ‘valentine greeting’ to a girl he fell in love with. “From your Valentine,” the letter said.

Let us now talk about February and what it all has to do with Valentine. First, some believed that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate his death. That seems plausible; however, a second opinion has it that Christians thought it would be a great idea to shape up the pagan celebration of Lupercalia and make it more beautiful and less bloody than what it was. Lupercalia was a fertility festival celebrated on February 15, and it was known for its violent and sexually-charged celebration that involved animal sacrifice, matchmaking, and coupling, hoping they could ward off evil spirits and infertility. All of that sounds less appealing than heart-shaped chocolates, wine, and rose petals on your bed, right?

Thankfully, those Christians did a great job and outlawed Lupercalia at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. However, a lot more time had to pass by before this date became associated with love. It occurred in the middle ages when the French and the English believed that February 14 was bird’s mating season, and hence they deduced this also should be a day for romance. Make sense, doesn’t it? Valentine greetings also became popular in the middle ages, and from then on, the candles of love bright more intensely this day.

I know it’s cheesy, but the occasion deserves it.

Whatever your feelings are toward Valentine, one thing is clear: It’s all about love, and love moves mountains and makes writers cheesy (just like it is making me cheesy right now). Please take a moment to give that special someone a hug and say how lucky you are to be by their side. And if you don’t have a special someone, stop looking, that person will show up when you less expect it. 

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